Probably the most used phrase over the past month – except for ‘shall we jump on a Zoom call’ – has been ‘we are living through unprecedented times’.
I know I’ve said it on plenty of occasions when speaking to my colleagues at PR and creative agency HRM, the unLTD team and to a variety of clients in many different industries across the Sheffield City Region.
However, how else are we supposed to explain it? You can break it down on many levels and on each of them we are different to how we would normally be living our lives, whether that’s work, socialising, relationships, family, education or, most importantly, our health.
What is more, it’s likely that things will be different when the government’s restrictions on us are loosened over the next few weeks.
Will we want to rush out to a bar or restaurant and be surrounded by people again? Will we be nervous on the first occasions of meeting elderly relatives or other people classed as vulnerable?
Will our habits have changed in terms of the way we shop? Will we gorge ourselves on all the things we’ve had taken away such as eating out, watching live sport or simply going out on multiple occasions for no real reason?
Or will our attitudes have changed, and we’ll be more in the present? Less concerned about what we used to want to do and happier with the little things in life – spending time with our close family, taking time to bake or read a book we never previously had time to finish.
These aren’t just lifestyle questions, but they are also very relevant to business as firms may have to adapt to their customer’s new habits.
During this pause in the economy it wouldn’t be fair to say that every business has been affected in the same way. Some – supermarkets being an easy example – have had to make decisions but in what would traditionally be seen as in a more positive direction.
They’ve had to react to an increase in sales, which is a good place for any business – yes, there have been a whole heap of logistical and staff challenges for them, so I’m not downplaying that.
For the majority, though, it’s either been to cease trading altogether and wait for the lockdown to pass, or to operate on a much-reduced footing.
I was part of an Andy Hanselman led networking event Zoom call with around 35 other business people last week and almost to a person they were saying the same things about orders reducing, furloughing staff, and working their way through government and council grant schemes.
In some ways it is reassuring that we are all in it together, but it doesn’t necessarily mean we’ll all come out of it together when the shutters come up.
I know that many leaders have been looking at ways to come out of this with a more robust business. It’s a sensible and proactive way of thinking.
The best thing I think we’ll have learned during this period will be decision-making under extreme pressure. It’s rare you are tested in life like this – unprecedented, some may say – so if nothing else your senses will be heightened, your focus will be clearer and there is a new life to look forward to.